The government stood by Conservative MP Bob Dechert on Monday when questioned by NDP MPs about the parliamentary secretary's ties to a Chinese journalist that recently landed him in hot water.
Dechert admitted two weeks ago that he sent flirtatious emails to Shi Rong, the chief Toronto correspondent for Xinhua, the official Chinese government news agency that is directly responsible to the governing Communist party. The emails, from 2010, had been made public by Shi's husband because of a domestic dispute according to Dechert. The Toronto-area MP, who is married, said the relationship was only an innocent friendship.
Security analysts, however, say it's well-known that Xinhua correspondents act as intelligence agents for the Chinese government and some critics have said the relationship should have raised red flags and should now be fully investigated by the government.
Parliament resumed Monday for the fall session and question period provided the first opportunity for the NDP to bring up the matter in the House of Commons. Paul Dewar, the NDP's foreign affairs critic, said there are "unanswered questions" about Dechert's judgment and potential security concerns.
He asked whether Dechert, would step aside as parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs until the matter is investigated.
Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan said Dechert has denied any inappropriate behaviour. "We of course have found no information to suggest otherwise," he responded.
The NDP's Hélène Lavadière asked that if an investigation has taken place behind closed doors could the report be made public.
"I'm not entirely sure what this has to do with government business and I don't know what inquiries into people's personal lives have to do with the new tone of decorum," said Van Loan. He then repeated that Dechert has denied any inappropriate behaviour, "and there's no information to suggest otherwise."
Dechert was parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice at the time the emails were written. He was made parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird this past spring.
In one email sent about midnight on April 17, 2010, Dechert thanked Shi for sending a photo of herself from seven years earlier. "You are so beautiful. I really like the picture of you by the water with your cheeks puffed. That look is so cute, I love it when you do that. Now, I miss you even more."
In another 2010 email, Dechert tells Shi to watch CPAC because he will smile for her as he stands to vote in the House of Commons that night. She replies that she will watch for him.
Late Monday, the RCMP would not confirm to CBC News whether or not it had conducted an investigation into possible national security concerns arising from Dechert's relationship. Its standard practice is not to confirm or deny who or what is the subject of an investigation based on information referred to authorities, unless that investigation results in the laying of criminal charges.